• Nikki Bartlett

YUSSSSS!!! First Pro podium. 3rd place IRONMAN Pays d'Aix 70.3

So, why wait until the end of the blog to share my excitement?? 3rd Pro at IRONMAN Pays d'Aix!!!!!!!!!!!!! YEAH BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've been mulling over how I can place words on how I felt crossing the line, knowing that I will be standing next to two superstar athletes on the podium. I've dreamt what it would feel like, standing on the podium for the first time. Nothing can prepare you for the whirl-wind of emotions. Knowing that you've put every inch of your heart and soul into the race. BUT what I can reflect on, is how important it is to keep confidence in yourself and your ability.

Rob and Susie have literally changed my mindset, on how important it is to back yourself and what you ARE capable of. And lets be honest, if you can't back yourself, who will? My performance at Pays d'Aix was largely on self-belief. Why? I went in 100% swim and bike fit - both disciplines beyond where I thought at the end of the 2015 season, that I would reach to in 2016. But, unfortunately after the Scottish Duathlon Champs (race report here), I suffered from a calf tear/strain. So no running for 5-6 weeks. I was injury free come race week, but I took condifence from the fact that, pre set-back, I was running the strongest I have done in training. So, decision made on Wednesday at 10am that I was racing, we were packed and gone by 1pm.

How did it go? Little something like this:

Race prep - in race week, few short test runs to make sure I was 100% injury free. Tick. Travel to Aix en Provence early doors on Thursday. Part test/drive bike course Friday. LOVE IT. Test out new Aqua Sphere wetsuit in the GORGE lake. Bit cold, but certainly not 10 deg like Scottish lochs.

Pro briefing. FAFF pre-race day standardness. Eat. Bed. Wink of sleep. Race day.

Race day - arrive. Swim cancelled. Gutted! Air temp was 5 deg, and the forecast was REDIC winds 40-80kmp/h. Been in worse situations - standard racing conditions in Scotland (well maybe tad less wind). But, that was the decision, so had to get on with it.

Pros picked numbers out of a hat to determine race start number. I went off 7th Pro female. Went off in TT format (ish), 20 seconds apart.

The bike - I went off pretty hard, as Tine Deckers was starting right behind me. Went past two athletes, then the Tine train went past, and fast! I tried to follow suit, all within draft zones. The bike course was pretty hilly, with a lot of technical sections, and so many corners, that you could be about 30 secs - 1min within another athlete, and not even know about it. Tine shot off, so my project was to firstly, not fly off the bike in the wind, and ride bloody strong, if possible pacing off of a strong rider. That I found in Julia Gajer.

The wind on the bike was bloody tough, sections which I was like sh** I'm actually going to fly off the cliff any second! I know there's a lot more to come bike wise, BUT, I was super happy to come away with the second fastest bike split, on my new awesome Specialized Shiv from Leisure Lakes Cheltenham.

Off the bike into a bloody long ass T2.

The run - all about being mentally tough through this. Belief, confidence. I'm off the bike, top 3, I'm finishing on that podium!

The run was pretty undulating - lots of twists and turns, pretty much a rhythm breaking course. 3 loops. Julia was just in front, but technically I was coming off the bike in 2nd position, as I started the bike section behind Julia. But, I had to run my own race. I felt surprisingly comfortable in the first lap, I really had no idea where my boundaries were, so I just went out and kept an even pace throughout the run. Admittedly I did run the hillier sections a tad on the easy side, as I was still wary of how my calf would hold out. As I came through the town centre on my final lap, Bex shouted 'enjoy your first Pro podium' and that I did. It was a pretty special moment which I won't forget. Through the line in 3rd place, less than two mins behind 2nd. Super chuffed with a 1.23 run BUT, I do think it was a tad short. I forgot to start my garmin from T2, but pretty sure it was around 800m short (??!). Even so, say it was a 1.26, I will take that. I know there's much more to come on the run.

Full results/race report via TRI247 here.

As a little note. We all have set backs, niggles, injuries, life stressors etc. Your body can go a bloody long way, if you have a positive mental attitude. So if you have a set back, just nail what you can do, keep a positive mind and attitude. As the saying goes, 'it's hard to beat a person who never gives up'.

I'm still smiling and buzzing from the race, and to share the long weekend with Bex and her family, and know that family and friends were tracking back home =

As always, this is one big team work effort. Coach Rob, sponsors - massive shout out to Financial Fitness, 9bar and Leisure Lakes Bikes Cheltenham. Bex, family and friends. I'm always striving to better myself as an athlete, and keep pushing the boundaries. Travel days are done, and looking forward to starting the next block of training. Lots to work on!

Massive thank you!!!! x

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